For nearly two thousand years, the Catholic Church, as established and founded by Jesus Christ the Son of God, has avoided misleading souls or corrupting them through any of Her official teachings or actions. Whatever else may have happened at any time or place has been merely the personal moral failings of individual clerics, even sometimes at the very top. But those things never entered into the official teachings and actions of the Church. At the very worst instances, they would have been on par with the Pharisees of whom our Lord said, "Do as they say, but do not do as they do." And most throughout history have done far better than that.
It is a matter of de fide Catholic dogma that the Church, as the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, is the perfect and holy Society, and as such can only provide for the sanctification and salvation of souls, never their degradation and damnation. History, up to the point of the Vatican II Council anyway, demonstrates and affirms the validity and truthfulness of this dogma. What has happened during and since that council is more complex. Whatever else can go wrong, and sometimes has, one has but to be taught by the Church and to obey Her commands in order to be saved, and indeed, to be a saint.
Suddenly with Vatican II and ever since, this ceases to be so. I think it is worth meditating on the philosophical problem this raises. If one takes the Vatican 2 Church as being, in any sense whatsoever, "the Church," then one is confronted with a shocking and horrible trilemma. No matter which way one goes, one keeps one's Faith only by losing it, as it were. The three horrible options, each worse than the other, are these:
1. Claim that nothing really has changed,
2. Claim that all the ancients were stupid and ignorant, and
3. Claim that the Church has effectually ceased to function as the Church.
There also exists beyond those three options two yet far worse ones that by their nature are beyond the scope of this article to address, and I have nothing I can add regarding these two even more horrible options, namely that either:
I therefore restrict myself here to discussing the three options for those who choose to try to remain Catholics who believe in God, and in Jesus Christ the Son of God who founded the Church.
The first of the three horns of the trilemma would be the position that nothing has changed. The obvious and rank absurdity of such a claim would seem to render it unworthy of any further refutation. And yet, there are those who seriously put forth this claim, some arguing rather cleverly for it. Why should anyone even attempt it? Well, the Church cannot change. Ergo it hasn't. This has always been the "strong suit" for those taking this position. The problem is explaining away all the very many changes that obviously have occurred.
The more erudite of those who take this position do so by positing that, "well, some things can change while others cannot." They draw a sharp line between doctrine and discipline with the claim that only the latter can be changed.
It does not take much to show that the changeable "disciplines" really can be changed willy-nilly into quite literally anything, even "disciplines" that prove to be (and anyone could have seen in advance that they would have been) destructive to the souls of those Catholics who obey them.
Far worse for those taking this position is the fact that this "sharp line" is ever and anon having to be moved again and again, and always in the direction of putting more things on the changeable "discipline" side and fewer on the unchangeable "doctrine" side. Once upon a time, the Mass could never be changed. It was. Latin could never go away.
Then it did.
The rebellious abuse of communion being received in the hand could never be officially accepted.
Then it was.
The Sanctuary was an exclusively male domain. Then Altar girls were officially permitted. Valid marriages could not be dissolved by anyone, not even the Pope. Now "annulments" are rampant.
Salvation was only for those who pursued the Truth. Now it is available to those who prefer to remain with their pleasurable fantasies.
Perhaps one may say, "Those things were just disciplines; we know those are subject to change." Let's look at doctrines. How about transubstantiation? Here is the experience of many in the Novus Ordo that still have Catholic sympathies. "Fr." Bozo, his Novus Ordo Presider, cavalierly dismisses the doctrine of transubstantiation as mere superstition with a wave of the hand in his homily. Talking to him does no good since he really believes that the doctrine is mere medieval superstition. So, one reports him to his bishop. After three months, the response from the bishop is, "So what?" and no action is taken. Then one reports this to the Vatican. After sixteen years, the response from the Vatican is, "So what?" and no action is taken. Is that not the experience of everyone who dares to question the doctrinal rectitude of the Novus Ordo?
What about such great doctrines as that of the Holy Trinity, as enshrined in the First Council of Nicea and so brilliantly expounded by Pope Leo the Great. Surely something so basic and essential to Christianity itself, something so basic as to be adhered to even by most Protestants, would be safely tucked away on the side of doctrine, would it not? But then, they officially teach that we worship the same God as the anti-Trinitarian Muslims (Catechism of the Catholic Church 841 ). How could anything be considered safe as an unchangeable doctrine after that? Those who have taken this position, trying to define some essential and unchangeable essence of the Church, find this essence falling like sand between their fingers until they are left empty handed. It amounts to reducing infallibility and indefectibility of the Pope and Church to an absolute nullity.
The second approach is essentially that taken by the Modernists who like the new religion and the easy and undemanding new worship and morality. How convenient it would be if no great effort, or indeed any effort at all, were needed in order to qualify for Heaven! And how nice to be able to say that anyone and everyone who thinks they are doing well, whatever they believe and however they apply that belief, must necessarily really be doing well in God's sight!
So the ancients who struggled heroically, who endured much persecution, torture, and death, were all simple-minded superstitious fools whose opinions on anything really don't matter. "We, the educated, the elite, the smart, the special ones, we know better than any of them ever did." Oh yeah? What did any such modernists actually build? All they ever did was hijack the accomplishments of all of us simpleminded fools who actually believe in self-sacrifice. And see what has happened with what they stole? They are like a fool who robs a bank and then can't even hold onto or make anything of the money they stole before it all disappears.
One alternate tack sometimes taken is to claim that the New Testament ancients did know more, but then what they knew was somewhere lost along the way. "We are just reviving the ways and rites of antiquity that have been so long abandoned by that dirty medieval Church." Essential as a part of this method is the strategy of fabricating ancient descriptions of the early Church or of their worship, beliefs, and practices, all tailored to anticipate the aberrations that these modernist heretics intend to introduce. One need only look up their sources cited to see how they have been gravely misused in the service of error.
But of those taking this tack, even worse than their laughable arrogance in thinking they know better than all the saints, popes, and doctors of former eras or their blatant scholastic dishonesty in misrepresenting the nature of the early Church, is the philosophical problem they introduce by in effect declaring that the Church has been wrong all these centuries. What authority can be attributed to them who hereby undermine the only basis by which anyone could have ever had any authority? "I have authority because So-and-So appointed me, but So-and-So was a stupid ignoramus who didn't know which way was up, so just listen to me instead of him."
Finally, there have been those who have in effect claimed that the Church has effectually ceased to function. How can it be? In former times it was a clear sign of Grace in an individual that they sought to belong to the Church, either loyally remaining within and obeying its directions if already within, or else by seeking to gain such a state if not. And now the clearest sign of Grace in an individual is their refusal to obey or even to belong to it? Where are Grace and Sanctification to reside if not in the Church?
I realize that few, if any, of us traditional Catholics would dare to assert that such a thing could ever become of the Church. A great many of us have been forced to leave the Vatican-run organization for no reason other than our steadfast faithfulness to God, to the infallible truths taught by the Church throughout history, and our intention to worship God in the manner He directs instead of that directed by those who most evidently hate, despise, and mock God. Obviously, that much is necessary for anyone possessing the interior life as lived and propounded by all the holy saints.
But whenever any of us accidently, or out of sloppy habits of thought, or even of mistaken belief, refer to that Vatican-run organization as being the Church in any sense whatsoever, visible, legal, canonical, hierarchical, or whatever, we have uttered exactly the blasphemy of that third claim.
And herein points the only way out of that trilemma: We must recognize the obvious fact that the Vatican-run organization cannot possibly be identified with the historic Roman Catholic Church in any sense whatsoever.
Perhaps with some, the realization must start from the top down. Its recent and current leaders could not possibly be real Roman Catholic Popes (in the Petrine sense of that word). Otherwise, the Holy Ghost would have prevented them from doing, teaching, and mandating the things they have done, taught, and mandated.
Indeed, every one of them from Paul VI onward (with some substantial suspicion hovering over John XXIII as well) has demonstrated himself to be not even a Catholic at all! However, this same observation must extend much further than that. The same goes for the "bishops" and "priests" (most of whom are not even validly consecrated or ordained), though at first there were quite a number of faithful bishops and priests. However, over the years they have been driven out or dying off, and their replacements within the Vatican-run organization are not being trained in the Roman Catholic Faith. It should be obvious: An organization made up of non-Catholics is not the Catholic Church at all. This is not about judging individuals, but discerning what their religion is.
However, the faithful priests and bishops (some temporarily found therein at the beginning-like Archbishops Thuc and Lefebvre) most certainly have successors to this day, albeit not as members of the Vatican 2 Church. It is to these we must look, now and in the ages to come, for the authentic, visible, legal and canonical hierarchy of Holy Mother Church. Either it is to be found among them, or the Church has truly disappeared, never to rise again, and God's promise to be with us always would be a myth.
Besides the longer articles Griff has been writing for the DailyCatholic, he has submitted shorter articles that were published in the Traditional Catholic monthly periodical The Four Marks over the last few years. They are short articles that editor and publisher of The Four Marks Kathleen Plumb has graciously given permission to run here. We are grateful for the opportunity to share these with our readers who may not have had the opportunity to see them originally in The Four Marks since they are Griff's. The above appeared in the September 2010 issue.
Griff's book is available from iUniverse.com Books for $26.95 or can be read on-line at www.the-pope.com We at the DailyCatholic strongly urge you to share it with all you can for that could be the gentle shove that moves your friends back to where the True Faith resides forever, rooted in the Truths and Traditions of Holy Mother Church as Christ intended and promised.
For Griff's previous articles from his STRAIGHT STUFF features, see ARCHIVES